The Complete Guide to Trimming Cannabis

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Trimming Cannabis
Author avatar By Nate Hammer
September 21, 2021
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Trimming cannabis brings you so close to the finish line that you can taste it. It’s the process that makes or breaks the ultimate smoking experience. It boosts the appearance of your colas, as well as their potency and resistance to mold. 

Clipping around the bud rounds off those long months of struggling to make your weed the best it can be. Don’t miss out on this step. Master it before your next harvest for a successful cultivation experience from start to finish

Today, we’re answering the essential question of how to trim weed. We’re starting with the basics and building up to some pro tips to make the task as seamless and efficient as it gets. 

Trimming Cannabis
Trimming Cannabis

Why is trimming cannabis important?

Think about the buds available for purchase at dispensaries. They’re perfectly round and chunky, with no sugar leaves adorning their sides. Past the aesthetics, they also taste and smell better, burn more smoothly, and deliver a steady and balanced experience. 

These flowers seem manicured, and that’s because they are. They’re the result of a careful clipping process, which you can also perform at home. Trimming weed helps each bud reach its full potential of quality. 

Here’s the benefits it provides:

  • Trimming cannabis makes your buds aesthetically pleasing. Flowers no longer appear rugged but shaped and polished. You also see that each piece left is dripping with those sweet, sweet trichomes.
  • The smoking experience becomes much smoother. The foliage doesn’t burn as smoothly as the flower itself. Leaves can be pretty harsh on the lungs. Remove them early for a uniform texture.
  • Cutting the sugar leaves brings out the terpene profile. The remaining leaves muddle the flavor of those aromatic terpenes adorning your cannabis buds. With them out of the way, the taste is clearer and much more pronounced. 
  • You get higher cannabinoid levels per bud. Those little leaves do contain some THC and CBD, but much less than the actual cola. Trim weed for more consistency and zero disappointments with your blunt.

Aren’t these qualities something you’d like in your latest homegrown stash? 

When should you begin trimming weed buds?

Now that you’re convinced of the importance of trimming marijuana, let’s discuss timing. It’s key to doing it right and getting the sweetest, most flavorful buds possible.

Cannabis trimming is the step immediately following your harvest

Some growers like doing it right away, while others prefer to leave their weed plant to dry before manicuring the individual flowers. Either option has its advantages and disadvantages (we’ll get into that shortly).

This process works even better when you take some preparatory steps before it’s cola collection o’clock. Most notably, flushing helps your flowers’ aroma become creamier and more natural. 

While flushing, you cut out nutrients and shower your crops with pure water only. That way, the plant uses the last of its feed. There’s no chemical or salty taste in your buds as a result of buildup. 

Combine flushing with trimming cannabis. Your colas will emanate a powerful perfume that stands shoulder to shoulder with ganja grown by dedicated professionals. 

Trimming Bud
Trimming Bud

How to trim weed: trimming cannabis techniques

Trimming marijuana plants isn’t one-size-fits-all. You can do it by hand or use a machine. We prefer the former as it awakens our love for the herb to tackle each little bud individually. 

You can also perform a wet or dry trim. This distinction stems from timing:

  • If you wait for your buds to dry first, it’s a dry trim
  • If you perform the manicuring process before leaving your colas on a drying rack, it’s a wet trim

The wet trim vs. dry trim distinction is important for technique, but either option can be extremely successful. The goal and result is always a neat, smooth bud. Let’s explore both options.

Wet trim vs. dry trim 

Wet weed trimming happens on harvest day. Your colas are still supremely sticky, and you manicure them before curing. 

Leaves and branches are bendable and anything but stiff, making the process messy but easier to do by hand

It’s the ideal option for growers worried about moisture, especially those cultivating in generally humid environments. It also gets your buds to dry much more quickly than the alternative. 

On the other hand, dry cannabis trimming takes place four to ten days after the harvest. Your buds have already lost a lot of moisture by this time. 

This option works better for cultivators who don’t have the time to trim weed on harvest day. It’s also excellent if you live in an especially dry environment, where individual bud drying would cause the death of those precious cannabinoids. 

Wet marijuana trimming: Pros and cons

Most at-home weed farmers perform wet marijuana trimming for the following benefits: 

  • Makes leaf removal much easier
  • Speeds up the drying process 
  • Prevents mold issues
  • Helps you retain a higher terpene content

There are some negatives, too. For instance: 

  • It’s time-consuming to trim buds individually
  • You need to work quickly to finish everything on the same day

Dry marijuana trimming: Pros and cons

Commercial and other large-scale growers usually choose the dry cannabis trimming process because:

  • It maintains bud health for longer
  • It preserves colas in dry climates
  • Sugar leaves can later be used for edibles
  • It’s a much less sticky, neater process

When it comes to the negatives, leaving untrimmed weed to dehydrate makes the drying process itself much more time-consuming and demanding. You need to control the temperature and humidity in your grow room to ensure no moisture builds up in the colas. 

Other disadvantages are:

  • It takes more time to finish the harvest
  • It requires more space to dry an entire plant
Cannabis Trim
Cannabis Trim

6 pro tips for trimming marijuana

In the end, whichever approach you choose, excellence is on the horizon. Your decision depends on your environment, space and time restrictions, and preferences

Whatever you do, these tips transform the process from efficient to super-efficient. They can turn even absolute amateurs into cannabis trimming pros in no time.

1. Cut the plant and branches first

Learning how to trim buds one by one becomes much easier when you minimize the bulk on the get-go. 

Cut the plant off the base, remove individual branches, and work on them one by one, removing and manicuring the buds. Plus, cannabis plant segmentation makes the task much less demanding when it comes to space.

2. Remove fan leaves right away

No matter whether you’re going for a wet or dry weed trim, there’s some work to be done immediately after harvest

Cut off large bladed fan leaves right away. Doing so lets your plant dry in half the time and reduces the branch bulk before you.

Trimming Weed
Trimming Weed

3. Keep several separate piles

Each part of the branch you’re cutting has a different future use. If you let everything drop beneath your seat, you’ll never manage to separate fan leaves from the stalks. 

Instead of letting the mess accumulate, dedicate your tray to the buds themselves and separate different parts of your cannabis plant.

4. Don’t waste the trim

While you’re trimming marijuana, you’ll end up with heaps of foliage and stems lying around. A good stoner is a sustainable stoner, and nothing should go to waste

Leaves are perfect for tea, butter, or kief. You can even use stems for cooking and making extracts, from hash to topicals. 

5. Keep rubbing alcohol and extra scissors

Trimming cannabis gets gluey. You’ll want to keep your scissors sharp to avoid giving up on your latest bunch of buds. 

An expert trimmer has both cleaning supplies and an extra pair of scissors on hand. That way, you have to wipe only half as often. You’ll stay in the groove, too.

Sharpen everything before you get cutting for bonus points. 

6. Save the scissor hash

Scissor or finger hash is the resin that collects on your tools and hands while you’re going at it. It might not sound delicious, but it is.

Don’t dispose of it. It’s valuable smokable material that you can collect and store somewhere for a quick hit.

7 cannabis trimming tools needed

Congratulations, you now know the theory. It’s time for practice

Trimming a marijuana plant requires some equipment to do it properly. Of course, if you’re dealing with one small crop, you can use your office scissors and latex gloves, but the quality of equipment translates into the quality of the results.

What do you need for a successful weed trim day, then? The following seven tools are essential.

1. Scissors or shears

You can’t trim pot plants without quality cutters in your corner. Shears or scissors specifically designed for trimming are ideal. More importantly, they need to be sharp and sterilized

Your tool gets bonus points for being ergonomic. You want to avoid hand cramps before you’re done with the task. 

Once you get the hang of things, get a smaller pair for intricate trimming and shears to cut off branches. 

Tip: Pointed tips help with the manicuring process.

Trim Scissors
Trim Scissors

2. A comfortable seat

You’ll spend long hours over your buds. Without a good seat, you might give up before you finish the job. Stick with it and make things comfortable for yourself to see it through.

3. Gloves

Quality gardening gloves help everything stay hygienic as you’re trimming cannabis. They keep the resin off your hands and your skin particles off the buds.

Ideally, get a comfortable pair that’s not too bulky. Manicuring is an intricate task, after all. 

Avoid latex, too. You don’t want that artificial smell on your fresh colas. 

4. Trimming tray

A tray is an indispensable tool for cannabis trimming. It offers a clean spot for storing the buds. If it has a screen, it also collects kief and ensures nothing goes to waste. 

Make sure to get a tray from a hardy material, such as stainless steel. It helps the colas stay clean, without any chemicals or particles injuring the flavor.

5. Cleaning supplies

Trimming cannabis gets the resin everywhere. Adhesive substances collect on your scissors, hands, and the tray as you’re working your way through a bud batch. 

Keep rubbing alcohol and a cleaning cloth nearby to wipe your scissors when they’re no longer cutting anything with all that glue on their surface! 

6. Old comfy clothes

You should take care to remain as neat as possible, but some mess is inevitable. Put on something old and comfortable that won’t make you afraid to get your hands dirty.

7. Company or entertainment

Learning how to trim marijuana plants is demanding at first, but it soon feels routine after a while. Have a friend nearby, play good music, or put on your favorite show to avoid giving up.

Trimming Marijuana Bud

What can you do with weed trim?

Okay, trimming cannabis is all done. You’re now sitting in front of a heavy cluster of stems, fan and sugar leaves, and stalks. These components might seem like garbage, but a responsible, smart stoner puts them to good use, not wasting an ounce of their homegrown pot. What to do with weed trim, then?

Stems and leaves also store cannabinoids and terpenes. You can make homemade herb products that carry the same feel-good qualities as your weed stash.

Stems are fantastic for making extracts and concentrates. Sugar leaves have the same purpose, and they’re easy to turn into cannabutter, tea or chai, or even kief to sprinkle on top of your next blunt.

If you’re only interested in smoking, contact somebody in the community who wants to make infusions. Why let good cannabis go to waste?

What to do after trimming marijuana plants?

You already went out of your way to learn how to trim cannabis. Don’t let your impatience get the better of you now, but complete the cycle to get dispensary-tier quality weed in your garden.

There are two more steps between you and fresh, smokable buds rolled up in a blunt. You’ll need to dry and cure the colas

Drying takes between two days and a week, depending on your cannabis trimming skills and the humidity in your room. It removes excess water buildup from the flowers, minimizing the formation of mold and extending the shelflife of your homegrown weed.

Curing follows drying. While it’s not a necessity, it boosts the flavor of your fresh buds and adds to the smooth texture of the smoke. 

This process entails storing the buds in air-tight jars or other glass containers to make them preserve the optimal amount of moisture.

Trimming Cannabis Plant
Trimming Cannabis Plant

Final points about cannabis trimming

Whichever process of trimming cannabis you choose, you’ve made the first step towards the colas of your dreams. Use this guide for the basics and build on your skills until it becomes second nature.

It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll revel in the results. Two harvests from now, your grower friends will be coming to you for a lesson on how to trim marijuana.

Stay tuned to our blog for more handy guides such as this one. Our educational resources are here to help weed farmers every step of the way, ensuring the highest quality weed in gardens across the country.


About the author: Nate Hammer

Since working with Kyle Kushman, Nate Hammer has taken his indoor skills to a whole new level, showing a special interest in the flowering stage and cure.